Trump continues push for barriers with orders to build Mexico wall, expand deportations

January 24, 2017

By Adrian Morrow, Globe and Mail |

Donald Trump is moving to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, acting on the foundational promise that launched his run to the presidency.

Mr. Trump’s executive orders Wednesday – which also included instructions to cut federal funding from cities and states that refuse to help deport illegal immigrants and to expand the number of immigrants targeted for deportation – give effect to the central premise of his political agenda: That immigration is both an economic and security threat to his country.

“Building this barrier is more than just a campaign promise, it’s a common-sense first step to really securing our porous border,” Mr. Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, told reporters at the White House Wednesday. “This will stem the flow of drugs, crime, illegal immigration into the United States.” Despite Mr. Trump’s orders, the plan faces enormous hurdles, including land-ownership battles that could delay actual construction by years and a hefty price tag that could cause lawmakers to balk.

What’s more, immigration experts say a wall would likely have no effect, because the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico has slowed to a trickle in recent years.

The action by the President continues a whirlwind week in which he has quickly moved to show he will keep the controversial promises that vaulted him into office.

It comes just two days after he pulled the country out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and reiterated his promise to renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement, continuing his push to throw up barriers – both economic and physical – around the United States’ borders. And as early as Thursday, he is expected to clamp down further on immigration, with a ban on most refugees and a moratorium on people from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa.

The border wall, brandished in Mr. Trump’s first campaign speech 18 months ago, was his defining promise: Supporters chanted “build the wall” regularly at his rallies, while detractors labelled it an outlandish pledge with racist undertones.

“With today’s executive orders and those expected later this week, President Trump is following through with policies that match the ugly bigotry of his campaign. These orders will only deepen the wounds of division that Trump promised to heal,” said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a statement. “Like the skyscrapers that bear his name, a wall at the southern border will be nothing more than a monument to Trump’s vanity.”

The President’s orders instruct John Kelly, the new Secretary of Homeland Security, to “take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border,” and to suspend federal grants to “sanctuary cities” – jurisdictions that have adopted policies to not prosecute illegal immigrants. It also orders immigration enforcement to start targeting for deportation all immigrants who have been charged with a crime or may have committed one, regardless of whether they have been convicted.

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